Ready To Drive: 1978 Triumph Spitfire

1978 Triumph Spitfire

It’s easy to find an affordable Spitfire project. Josh and I have owned a few of our own actually and even though the parts are cheap, we know that the costs can quickly escalate. That’s why this ready-to-drive example looks tempting. The seller has owned the car for the past 16 years and has enjoyed it every summer. They’ve kept up on the maintenance and done a few upgrades along the way. It’s located in Lake Orion, Michigan and is listed here on craigslist for $7,000. That may seem high, but take a look at everything that’s been done before coming to a conclusion.

Spitfire Interior

The interior looks great! I cant see any cracks in the dash pad and the carpet is all new. I’d lose the furry dice and upgraded stereo, but I know those type of things are important to some. The bullet mirrors may not provide the best rear view, but they sure look great!

Upgraded 1500

Things look great under here too! Everything is clean and the seller has replaced most of the consumables recently. It should be safe and reliable for a long time to come. The finned valve cover looks cool, but my favorite upgrade here is the dual SU carbs. These came from the factory with a single Stromberg which, although not a bad carburetor, was no match for the Euro spec setup found here.

Spitfire 1500

BRG is my favorite color on these! It almost makes this little car look like a fighter plane. That is a new basecoat/clearcoat job, but it looks great and should hold a shine for years to come with an occasional waxing. This isn’t our typical fare, but sometimes it is refreshing to look at something that has already had all the hard work done.

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Love the Cosmic wheels! Don’t see those often over here :-) I agree, this would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate for the price if you started with a project car. Nice find!

    • Britcarguy

      I bought a set of Cosmic rims for my new Opel GT in 1970. They were beautiful, but hard to clean and leaked air like a mesh balloon. The aluminum was porous. I tried painting fiberglass resin on the insides which didn’t work and eventually had to run tubes.

  2. Nick G

    Lovely Spitfire, if you are 5′ 10″ or less. This is a very fair price. The Stromberg is troublesome when compared to an SU. A twin SU kit for this is probably 25% of the asking price and the wheels perhaps the same.

  3. Van

    Great find.
    Spitfires don’t get any better than this.
    I prefer the early rounded body style, but this car would be worth it.

    • Joe

      they get a little better. . . GT6 powered ’64 Spitfire

  4. ClassicCarFan

    This would be a good one to buy, for sure, if you don’t enjoy the work involved in tracking down and fitting all the upgrades yourself.

    Lots of good bolt-on performance goodies there. I love to see the rest-of-the-world spec SUs instead of the single Stromberg or Weber conversion. I approve.

    I built a 1976 Spitfire with a lot of these same mods. I do feel that the owner missed the most significant areas for performance upgrade on these cars by stopping at the bolt-on only parts. The 1978 Federal Spitfire has a lousy 7.5:1 compression and a very tame emissions cam spec. The UK-spec cars had 9.0:1 compression and the earlier MkIII profile cam is much livelier.

    These engines also respond very well to some good quality porting work as the mass produced factory heads were not highly refined. The breathing improvements this owner made with the carbs, filters and sports exhaust would help some, but addressing the compression ratio, cam and head would add significantly more.

    Swapping the cam, pistons and the head work can all be done without even removing the engine on these cars. I’m not criticizing what was done on this car, just saying I would have gone all the way if it were me (as I did with my own Spit). A standard federal spit was about 56 bhp, a standard UK spec was 71 and it’s not too difficult or expensive to get 90 -100 bhp out of them and still keep it reliable and tractable. It’s a pretty small light car and 90+ bhp in a Spitfire really makes it fun to drive.

    Personally, the post 1977 cars aren’t my favorite styling wise. The TR7-style steering column and controls are ugly compared to the earlier ones. The satin black finish on the wipers and door handles always looked less classy than the polished metal finish and the bumpers got bigger and uglier over the years.

    If I had another Spitfire, I’d also want to get overdrive again as it makes a huge difference to usability for these cars. Shame this car does not appear to have it.

    OK. enough of me being picky. no doubt, this is a great buy.

    • Van

      Don’t forget how easy it is to work on. You won’t loose anything by building the engine now. Heck just sit on the tire and take the head off in what, 20 minutes. Have the head shaved and change the cam and Bob’s your uncle.

  5. Mark P

    $7K seems like a steal, if underneath looks as good where would you find another like it.

  6. Francisco

    Posted 9 days ago and still not sold. I wonder what the catch is.

  7. Bob

    WOW! Nice car with a lot of work done on it. Looks great.

    You definitely don’t find many of these in this good of shape. Did you see the picture of the trunk wheel well – no rust. Again, very rare.

  8. ClassicCarFan

    Yes, it’s maybe a bit odd that this hasn’t sold. I guess the logical analysis that “you couldn’t build one like this of that money” doesn’t always convince people. Sometimes the prices are just bounded by a ceiling for certain models no matter how much was invested in getting it into this spec/condition.

    $7,000 would appear to be top end money for a Spitfire – at least around here (SC). It’s a bit like real estate…when you have a really nice house with great features but in an undesirable neighborhood so there is a real limit on what it can sell for, how ever nice it is? It’s nonsensical really, because what you are getting for your money with this car would seem to be great value.

  9. Jesper

    Strange it isnt gone yet. Wery sweet car, and the price seem wery ok.
    I had expectet it to be sold after 24 hour’s.

  10. RJ Marks

    If it wasn’t so far away, I’d have my wife “questioning” me right now for buying another car. Looks like a nice ride and good deal to me.

  11. Richard Richer

    I sold my 1980 Spitfire for way too cheap! I found I had a euro spec exhaust for the 1500 in stainless new in box from Ritter Bros that never found a home so whoever buys this I’ll offer a great deal versus the $400+ I paid for it. Contact me however this site permits…

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